The Minneapolis-based hip-hop group, Atmosphere, greeted the crowd at Northern Lights as if the venue were located in one of the five boroughs, instead of the dreary, rain-soaked Capital Region.
“New York, throw your hands up!” shouted MC Sean Daley, better known as Slug, to a receptive audience that packed the standing room of the venue sardine-tight, alongside DJ and producer Anthony “Ant” Davis. The pair have been creating music and performing since 1989, and have been extensively touring for the past two decades.
As part of the Family Vacation tour, Atmosphere, alongside Rhymesayers labelmates Blueprint and Evidence, were also joined by up-and-coming rapper Prof. DJ Babu, also of Ryhmesayers, skipped the Clifton Park pit stop to fly home to surprise his daughter on her birthday. The bill packed a powerhouse of acts and each showcased more energy than the last.
Rapper Prof started the evening off and, in promotion of his solo debut release King Gampo, he handed out free copies following the show’s conclusion. Blueprint was slotted next to perform and began his set by building tension via a lengthy keyboard solo. What stood out the most was the lyrical delivery and meaning behind his words, mostly new material from his gritty, honest sophomore release, Adventures in Counter-Culture. The material sets an experimental, instrumental tone with synths and keyboards backing his love of hip-hop.
“I’m not supposed to smile but I’m having too much fun,” said rapper and producer Evidence, interrupting one of his own raps. He singled out one guy in the crowd who looked like he wasn’t having any fun. Jesting with him, he said, “Well, now my single goal is to impress this guy right here.” He led the crowd in singing Biz Markie’s anthem “Just A Friend,” then just as quickly switched the mood.
“Is it cool if I do some old shit?” asked Slug, as he and Ant took the stage with guitarist Nate Collis and keyboard player Erick Anderson, already knowing the answer and following up the request with “Guns and Cigarettes” from 2001’s Lucy Ford: The Atmosphere EPs. Flawlessly mixing up material, they then played “Just For Show” off of their latest album, The Family Sign.
Slug said he almost didn’t make it to the show because he drank a little bit too much the night before. Then “Sunshine” started up on cue: a story-telling track about curing a hangover and spending time in the sunshine.
After packing heat from the first verse to the last, intros from the keyboard or guitar gave Slug time to wipe sweat from his face with a full bath towel before the next explosive track, such as the emotional ballad “Guarantees” or the crowd-pleasing “Shrapnel.” For “Angelface,” he offered the background that it was written about a woman from the Albany area, and on “Lovelife” he asked the audience to throw an “L” in the air.
After playing over 20 songs, Atmosphere cleared off just past midnight, coming back for a quick encore packed with freestyles and cheers. “Apparently you guys like the sound of your own voice,” Slug joked. Atmosphere was there to perform, and Slug and Ant played with the crowd just as much as the crowd played back.